“If you see something, say something.”

That slogan has existed since 2001, and came about in response to the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Its original purpose was to remind people – at airports especially, but other places as well – to speak up and alert authorities if they see anything suspicious, such as an abandoned bag or suitcase that could contain a bomb. Over the years, the phrase has been used in other contexts as well – suspicious activity that could indicate human trafficking or child abuse, for instance.

People are often afraid to speak up, afraid to get involved, afraid to make the mistake of reading something into a situation that isn’t really there. And that’s understandable. But it’s also why we need to be reminded every so often that ordinary, everyday people like us can help save lives, avert disasters, and solve mysteries or crimes simply by paying attention to the world around us, and speaking up when something seems amiss.

I’ve been thinking about this ever since attending several recent “Crime & Wine” events at Georgia Writers Museum. Crime & Wine is a program developed by the nonprofit Cold Case Investigative Research Institute, which is an all-volunteer organization made up of detectives, profilers, crime scene investigators, and others who continue to work on unsolved cases of homicides, kidnappings, and missing persons.

The Crime & Wine events provide info and artifacts about a specific case to members of the audience, who are regular people, not law enforcement experts – although many are fans of true crime shows and stories. The idea behind Crime & Wine is that once they are given details of the case, people who aren’t experts in the field may provide a fresh perspective, or ask questions that can lead the investigators in a new, unexplored direction. This may actually help in locating missing persons or kidnap victims, or giving closure to the family of a murder victim.

I don’t really expect I’ll ever have that dramatic of an experience or impact – at a Crime & Wine event, the airport, or anywhere else. But you never know. So I’ll keep reminding myself to pay attention to my surroundings at all times – which I should be doing anyway. And if something out of the ordinary is ever going on around me, something that looks like it could be a threat, or something that just doesn’t feel right, I hope I’ll have the courage and presence of mind when I see something, to say something.

October 31, 2022
©Betty Liedtke, 2022

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